My Mindful Journey

Originally published on The Huffington Post on September 5th, 2017

My sophomore year of college I decided to attend a yoga class at a local studio and after sixty minutes of “Gentle Flow” my nineteen year old self was feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, and ready to take on the world. Soon I discovered, throughout my time at Dharma Studio, I didn’t particularly love the exercise, but loved the moment at the end: savasana. I learned that the purpose of savasana was to bring a deep meditative state of rest to conclude class. I much preferred the rest at the end, than the work in the middle, which made me think I would rather enjoy meditation.

 

When I used to hear the word meditation I would pair it with an extreme scenario like sitting a top a mountain at sunrise burning incense. But meditation can be as simple as sitting in a chair and focusing on your breath.

 

I had heard many things about a mediation practice, I knew my uncle meditated, my friends had taken a course on mindfulness in college, but I didn’t really understand how to get started. I started doing research on different techniques and tools I could use to start and found this app called “Calm” in the app store. I decided to download it onto my phone and the rest is history, I can say that it has absolutely changed my life.

As I am extremely fortunate to have been given opportunities in the writing world, theatre realm, and life in general, my anxiety can flare up sometimes; making it hard to walk through my day without feeling panicked about all the things I need to do. I had been searching for a way to ease my apprehension and was lucky enough to find meditation.

 

I am not sitting cross legged on a bare concrete floor, or breathing in incense at dawn. I am sitting comfortably on a pillow, which I specifically keep in my room for my practice, and focus on my breath. There is nothing religious in my practice; I know that some faiths like Buddhism have affiliation with such methods, but for me I am focusing on becoming the best “me” I can. Channeling into my breathing and allowing my worries to “pass like clouds in the sky” are my goals.

Meditation has made me a happier and more grounded person.

There are many different ways to meditate and tools you can use to help you center yourself. My favorite app to use is Calm.com, which provides soothing sounds like “Mountain Lake,” “Sunset Beach,” or my favorite, “Gently Flowing Stream,” to play in the background as you meditate.

There are several guided programs, and the “7 Days of Calm” gives you a taste of numerous types of focus techniques like “Body Scan” or a simple practice called “Calm” which has you relax specific parts of your body through your breathing. Calm is also really wonderful because you’re able to track when you meditate, for how long, and helps set personal goals to become more mindful in your practice.

Whenever I am irritated, sad, lonely, or overwhelmed I turn to my practice of meditation. I implore you to do more research on what meditation is and to try it yourself. I meditate for a 10-minute session every morning. I suggest starting at smaller increments of time, like two-five minutes with using an app like Calm or Headspace.

Meditation has changed my life.

Always remember that you are striving for the journey, not a destination. So do not be frustrated that it doesn’t provide mind-blowing results after the first couple sessions. Keep practicing. I am no expert on mindfulness or meditation, as I learn more and more about it every day, but it has changed my life in a wonderful way.

My Time In Therapy

Originally published on The Huffington Post, March 3rd, 2017

Becoming the Me I can be.

A subtle smile rests on my face as I walk down the sidewalk during a brisk and sunny February afternoon. I’m smirking because I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my chest; my mind feels clearer. What could have caused such a great sense of serenity? A session with my therapist, of course.

There tend to be a lot of misconceptions when you think of people going to therapy. “People who go to see a therapist are crazy. They don’t have support from their friends or family. Those people must be in a ‘bad place’.” I personally think that going to therapy is a smart and healthy decision. I have definitely benefitted from seeing a therapist, and I greatly recommend it. You should never be embarrassed for taking care of yourself mentally, people are always one to talk about how they’re improving their physical health. “Yeah, I’m on this new diet…”

You should never be embarrassed for taking care of yourself

Recently I have been feeling large amounts of anxiety as I am reaching a metaphorical crossroads in my life: I will be graduating college this May and though this excites me, it also stresses me out. Fears of my hopeful career, finances or lack thereof, and just the future in general have been plaguing my mind: robbing me of a good night’s rest. When asked the dreaded question “What are your plans after you graduate?” I respectfully reply “As soon as I find out, I’ll let you know.” And that’s the truth: I have no idea. The constant fear in the pit of my stomach was the catalyst for me to start going to therapy again.

 

I first saw a therapist during my freshman year of college; which was not successful because I didn’t connect with my counselor, making it difficult for me to open up about things that bothered me, disallowing me to talk about my true feelings and get to the root of the problem. I went back to counseling during my sophomore year of college because I had a strong will to “re-build myself”. I wanted to get a greater understanding of who I am and feel a better sense of balance in my life. It sounds all hippy-dippy, but it’s still something I strive for everyday. I went to therapy this (second) time because I wanted to be the best me I could be. I had a great connection with my therapist and was eager to learn more about bettering myself. It was a successful experience and I couldn’t be more grateful nineteen-year-old Christopher was able to make that choice.

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.” ― David Richo

I was tired of feeling mad, jealous, or scared and not knowing the reason why I was feeling that way. I wanted to further analyze and get a deeper understanding of my emotions in order to live my happiest life. Therapy is a great tool to understand my feelings, how I react to certain situations or people, and how to continually improve myself; using it as a looking glass to see my words and emotions from a different point of view. It’s my metaphorical backboard: I come in every week telling my counselor what has been bothering me and she will help me come to the conclusion why those issues are getting me so worked up.

 

For a while I would use the ominous or generic excuse “I have an appointment” in regards to meeting with my therapist, as I never felt the need to let others know I was going to see my counselor. But I think honesty and transparency are two things the world seems to be lacking at the current moment and I have no shame in receiving help to better myself. Therapy is a safe zone for you to analyze situations, maybe even come to the conclusion that you might be at fault, and how to not make the same mistake again.

Counseling is my time of self-reflection.

I started chuckling to myself a couple weeks ago because in my previous session that week I had finally gotten to the cause of why something was bothering me. “Therapy does work.” I thought while grinning.

Going in every week and talking over my frustrations and concerns with a therapist has benefitted me immensely. I regretfully admit that I tend to be somewhat of a perfectionist, which can be as detrimental as much as it is admirable, but I know that I will continue working, for the rest of my life, on being the best me I can be. I am so lucky to have such supportive, loving family and friends, and within the past year I have finally felt I can be fully honest and open with them. Living my best and authentic self.

 

“I am the one piece I hope to never call finished.” -Addison Peacock

I am proud of my time in therapy.